ATLANTA -- Tom Roche was in a third grade Catholic school classroom in Tampa, when a nun turned on a radio and the class heard that the president had been shot. It stunned Roche, an Atlanta video producer for the last thirty years. Four days prior to JFK's trip to Dallas, the president visited Tampa. Roche's father took him.
"When the news came that he was gravely wounded, it was more than just an abstraction. It really hit me because I was close enough to have almost touched him," Roche said Friday on the assassination's fiftieth anniversary.
It was also more than an abstraction to a teenage girl who had just started to pay attention to politics. "That was a very sad day. I didn't go to class. People were crying, they were sad, they were despondent." Former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin says it wasn't just due to the loss of a young president she and her friends admired. The murder undermined their faith in government, and magnified the horrific reach of street violence. "It was a very unusual day. I thought that I would not live to see people gunned down in the street, and unfortunately I've lived long enough to see that in classrooms and other places."
Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young says the assassination sent a grim message to those fighting in the civil rights movement.
"When we realized that he [Kennedy] was killed, Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.} said 'You know, if 400 Secret Service can't protect the President of the United States, you know any day, anybody who wants to get rid of any of us, we're done for,'" Young, a former UN ambassador and member of Congress, recalled.
November 22, 1963 was a day that shook a generation, and foretold even more violence to come.